This volume examines the ways in which divination, often through oracular utterances and other mechanisms, linked mortals with the gods, and places the practice within the ancient sociopolitical and religious environment. Whether humans sought knowledge by applying to an oracle through which the god was believed to speak or used soothsayers who interpreted specific signs such as the flight of birds, there was a fundamental desire to know the will of the gods. In many cases, pragmatic concerns – personal, economic or political – can be deduced from the context of the application.
Divination and communication with the gods in a post-pagan world has also produced fascinating receptions. The presentation of these processes in monotheistic societies such as early Christian Late Antiquity (where the practice continued through the use of curse tablets) or medieval Europe, and beyond, where the role of religion had changed radically, provides a particular challenge and this topic has been little discussed by scholars. This volume aims to rectify this desideratum by providing the opportunity to address questions related to the reception of Greco-Roman divination, oracles and prophecy, in all media, including literature and film.
Several contributions in this volume originated in the 2015 Classics Colloquium held at the University of South Africa and the volume has been augmented with additional contributions.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Was Didyma (Branchidae) a False Prophet?
Chapter 3: ‘Who Wrote Greek Curse Tablets?’
Chapter 4: A Story of Blood, Guts and Guesswork: Synthetic Reasoning in Classical Greek Divination
Chapter 5: Value-Added Divination at Dodona
Chapter 6: Divination and Profit in the Roman World
Chapter 7: Profiting from Prophecy: Q. Marcius Rex and the Construction of the Aqua Marcia
Chapter 8: Valerius Maximus and the Language of Stars
Chapter 9: "Arrows Fletched from Our Own Wings": Discovering a ‘Delphi of the Mind’ in the Writings of the Early Church Fathers
Chapter 10: Egyptian Necromancy in Heliodorus Aethiopica (6.12-15) and The Witch of Endor Narrative (1 Sam 28)
Chapter 11: Sosipatra: Prophetess, Philosopher and Theurgist: Reflections on Divination and Epistemology in Late Antiquity
Chapter 12: One Oracle too Many? Corippus and Procopius on Female Prophecy in North Africa
Martine de Marre
Chapter 13: Deconstructing Divination: Superstition, Anticlericalism, and Cicero’s De Divinatione in Enlightenment England
Chapter 14: Prophecy and Paul Kruger: Robert Grendon’s Appropriation of Greco-Roman Prophets and Prophetic Devices in his South African Epic, Paul Kruger’s Dream
Chapter 15: Cassandra Prophesies Back: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Firebrand
Richard Evans has taught at the Universities of South Africa and Cardiff. His research has focused on the political and military history of Greece and Rome, and the ancient topography of Sicily and Magna Graecia. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa.